Miami Beach is no stranger to uncontrollable spring break crowds, but this year, with approximately 13 per cent of USA residents vaccinated, the atmosphere is particularly festive and the illusion that the pandemic is now under control is pervasive.
Miami officials are imposing a new and earlier curfew, that is sought to control the crowds flocking into their city. When we have an arrest situation, people seem more assertive about not letting that arrest occur.
While Florida may have lifted its mask mandate, many cities and counties implemented a mandatory curfew in lieu of thousands of spring breakers descending to beach areas.
Police used pepper balls to disperse the crowd once curfew took effect, WPLG reported, leading to a brief stampede. A fight that started Thursday night at a restaurant on Ocean Drive, a popular party boulevard, ended in multiple arrests and anti-riot countermeasures from police, including firing pepper balls into the mob. Tourists are not being asked to leave, rather to stay at their hotels after hours. The restrictions and curfew are expected to last 72 hours, and an extension of the curfew is being debated by city officials.
Some people responded by jumping on top of cars, twerking and throwing money into the air.
A 29-year-old Miami Beach resident told The Daily Beast, "Time and time again during this pandemic, tourists are ruining everything".
The Miami Beach Police Department made 163 arrests over seven days, spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez told USA TODAY on Monday.
"There has to be an element there", said Clements, "of either the crowd fighting or coming at officers". 'And we can't have a policy of simply hoping it's not lit'.
Spring breakers have damaged restaurants, brawled in the streets, and gathered without masks or social distancing, officials said.
The city's tourism arm also just spent $5 million (A$6.4 million) on its biggest national advertising campaign in 20 years.
At the same time, local officials banned alcohol from the beach, along with all alcohol sales after 10 p.m.in an effort to curb partying. Tourists were getting cellphone messages warning, "Vacation responsibly or be arrested". The announcement of the curfew followed the breaking of crowd fights among spring breakers in their city, affecting establishments and businesses in their vicinity.
"Otherwise, you might as well just stay home and save yourself the court costs".
Miami Beach nightlife has never been for the faint of heart, but local officials and residents have noticed the particular aggressiveness of this spring's revelers during the ongoing pandemic.
Mayor Dan Gelber told an emergency meeting of the city commission that all manner of out-of-town and out-of-state visitors, not just college students, were filling the streets since Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Feb 26 called the state an "oasis of freedom" from coronavirus restrictions.
Developing story, more to follow.